Coworking while distancing: How Baltimore’s shared workspaces are reopening

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Like many coworking spaces, Spark Baltimore has started members only.

Around the city, Baltimore’s shared workspaces are starting to reopen. But those coworking and makerspaces that many left in March amid pandemic orders are doing things a little differently these days.

With the latest phase of government-ordered mandates requiring capacity limits and social distancing still very much a part of our lives, there are new measures that must be put in place. Given that coworking spaces are often testing grounds for new ideas about how to work, we reached out to some of the area’s leading voices to see how it was all working.

Here are some early best practices that we gathered up:

Get feedback.

As restrictions were lifted by the city, space managers said they heard from members who wanted to return. At the end of the day a coworking space is a community, so it made sense to bring folks together and talk about what they want and collecting their concerns can help to shape procedures that make everyone comfortable.

Inner Harbor space Spark Baltimore sent out a member survey and collected responses, then held two town hall sessions before reopening on June 8, said its director of community and partnerships, Shervonne Cherry.

Similarly, Impact Hub Baltimore in Station North sent out a survey and held a town hall virtually. The feedback was wide-ranging, and it led to a decision to put in place strict policies at the beginning to ensure the folks who felt the most at-risk could be safe, said Community Manager Sam Novak.

At Open Works, Executive Director Will Holman said the Greenmount West makerspace shifted wound down its operations making face shields for medical workers June 12, then had a community call ahead of reopening July 1. In the case of the space, which looks to offer community access to tools that folks wouldn’t otherwise have, opening back up the space meant not just offering a place to work, but a way to get members’ production up and running again by using Open Works’ CNC machine, lasercutter or embroidery machine.

“A lot of our member businesses are sole proprietorships or may not necessarily be formally incorporated, which means that they really didn’t qualify for a lot of government bailout programs or unemployment,” Holman said. “That put them in a really really tough spot to try to survive these couple months of shutdown when they didn’t have access to the tools to make their products.”

Members only.

Each of the spaces we talked to said they began reopening only for members. That makes it easier for folks to keep track of who is in the building, and have fewer people accessing space to limit the spread. At Spark Baltimore, that meant limiting day pass use, as well as non-member booking of conference rooms. Open Works is requiring reservations before folks come in to use the tools offered, and it is offering day passes for shop access. As of Aug. 3, Highlandtown’s ETC was reopened for members only with 50% capacity, and no visitors.

Read more ar Technical.ly

This article is from our friends at Technical.ly and part of its Workplace Culture Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.

 



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